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Nu-Scotland's drive to increased diversification continues

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Nu-Scotland's drive to increased diversification continues

The Mpumalanga Highveld in South Africa and its high elevation at 1741 metres above sea level ensures bitingly cold and frosty winters. The frost-bleached grasslands with large tracts of commercial forests, mountains and rivers hint at the Scottish Highlands, Nu Scotland Sawmill named after this resemblance.

 

Bennie Bruwer, the managing partner of a series of vertically integrated business ventures that include Nu-Scotland and Churchill Sawmills, is a veteran sawmiller from South Africa.

 

The ongoing race to diversify and improve production capacity lives close to Bennie’s heart.

 

In 2009, during a round of upgrades then, Bennie remarked, “it’s vital to diversify constantly with more income streams and the best technology to unlock maximum value ensuring the success of your business.”

 

The upgrade in 2009 saw thin-kerf narrow bandsaw lines from Brazil being commissioned at both sites to deliver the sawn timber requirement to supply structural timber retailers and pallet and crate producers in South Africa and beyond.

 

Kilning facilities at Nu-Scotland for dried-straight and flat structural timber gave greater returns that customers willingly paid. Dried sawdust from both mills went into compressed log export orders to heat homes in winter. Chipped offcuts went to board producers.  

Upgraded log-breakdown capacity at Nu-Scotland and Churchill is driving expansion at both sites.
 

With Nu-Scotland and Churchill then and now part of the integrated group, they also had access to their own commercial forest assets. Its own truck fleet that extracted logs from in forest to mill and from there to retail kept overheads low.

The Churchill log-breakdown line.

With its own trees, sawmills, logistics, diverse income streams, appropriate technology, and operationally savvy structures in place to ensure maximum value, Bennie’s dream was taking shape.

 

Building with Wood-Mizer into 2021 and beyond

The stark beauty of the Mpumalanga Highveld as it exited the winter of 2020 was underscored even more by the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

 

Despite the tough trading conditions brought on by the crisis, Nu-Scotland and Churchill Sawmills continue to flourish. This underlines the importance of Bennie’s old dictum to adapt and flourish or die trying to.

 

Compared with 2009, the business in 2021 remains focussed on maximum integration with structural timber and pallet component production at both sites remaining at its core. The Churchill site now also has kilning capacity to add to the group’s total drying volume. The increased drying capacity is an important move to supply the group’s new bed component plant with dried timber from which bed components are made and shipped to bed manufacturers in SA and beyond.

 

“The bed component, finger-joint and soon-to-go-live door plant replaced low earners like the heat log plant and we’re now able to build larger margins across our current basket of products,” Bennie says.

“A big priority for us was also to improve our log breakdown capacity,” Bennie says. It lies at the heart of the success of our business.”

 

On-going changes at Nu-Scotland has seen parts of the Brazilian-made line making way for Wood-Mizer equipment, a twin vertical log break-down, HR500 double-head resaw and Wood-Mizer EG300 edger on the mill’s recovery line announcing an important departure from the group’s previous equipment line-up there.

The Churchill site also now has kilning capacity to add to the group’s total drying volume.

At the Churchill site, the old Brazilian line is now 90% comprised of units from Wood-Mizer’s Smart Log processing (SLP) range.  A Wood-Mizer Twin vertical log breakdown unit process logs into two-sided cants with a Wood-Mizer Single vertical saw removing the third side before resawing into final sizes. A Wood-Mizer Twin-head HR500 resaw drives Churchill’s recovery line with edged sideboards from the primary breakdown process passing through it to produce boards for the pallet market.


“Wood-Mizer has been an integral part of our ability to grow the business as we have. We need accurate log breakdown capacity, and increasingly so as more divisions come on stream into the future.

Ready-for-market finger-jointed structural timber that adds to the structural clears and makes for less waste from both mills.
 

A new Wood-Mizer SLP line that will go live when our upgraded solar power plant is finished, will increase our company-wide ability to supply sawn material for resale and manufacturing,” Bennie continues.

 

A new Wood-Mizer line at Churchill will go live once the upgraded solar power plant there is finished.

“We decided to use Wood-Mizer’s SLP range as a stepping-stone in our group’s expansion because of the benefits that we’ve achieved to date from the range.

 

The bed component, finger-joint and soon-to-go-live door plant adds additional income streams and build larger margins.

“Those would include a real ability to maximize output, reduce operating costs, increase our ability to flexibly process log sizes between 100-400 mm, get industrial scale sawmilling capacity at an affordable price, the ability to flexibly alter the line layout given the modular design of the range and finally a reduced energy bill.”

 

“Our total thin-kerf narrowband sawblade requirement for both mills also come from Wood-Mizer and so too our blade resharpening and setting capacity, which reduces our reliance on outside suppliers considerably.

With its own trees, sawmills, logistics, diverse income streams, appropriate technology, and operationally savvy structures in place, Nu-Scotland and Churchill are bullish about the future.

“They’ve also been instrumental in keeping both sites running with spares and maintenance services and also by assisting us with the future layout of both mills,” Bennie concludes.

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